|Born||Laura Sue Bakula|
May 1, 1947
Saint Louis, Missouri
|Died||September 17, 2006 (aged 55)|
Fort Wayne, Indiana
|Occupation||television news anchor|
|Spouse||Henry Mark Reynolds|
Bakula was the weekend evening anchor of ATE Media's flagship station WMRI from 1979 until 2003 and later was co-anchor of the station's 4 p.m. newscast with Lynne Jackson (now at WTOR) and the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscast with Melinda Long (now at WFTW) from 2003 until her death in 2006. During the Great Blizzard of 1978 and Fort Wayne Flood of 1982, she began the 30-minute primetime program which was later was renamed Laura Bakula Reporting.
Bakula was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Sally (née Zumwinkel) and J. Stewart Bakula, a lawyer. She was the oldest of four children an unnamed younger brother, brother Scott Bakula, and a younger sister. Her surname comes from partial Croatian ancestry. She attended Indiana University for a degree in broadcast journalism.
In 1967, Bakula began her broadcast career in St. Louis, Missouri with KSTL-FTV as a general assignment reporter. Bakula was a television anchor in Indianapolis, first on then-ABC affiliate WIND (now a Fox owned-and-operated station) in 1969 and in 1973 moved to then-CBS affiliate WHOO (now an ABC O&O) and served as their noon news anchor. Bakula joined fellow Corithian station and WHOO's sister station, WFAZ in Fort Wayne in 1979 as a general assignment reporter.
Anchor in Fort Wayne
In January 1980, Laura Bakula joined the NewsCenter 9 weekend team with Kurt Fonn, Michelle Abernathy and Mark Pantazi. In 1981, Abernathy accepted the chief weather specialist with WMRI (while at the same time sending long-time meteorologist Sam Singleton to the morning and noon newscasts until his retirement in 2006 and Abernathy remained in that position until Alicia Williams became chief meteorologist in 1990) and Pantazi accepted the sports director offer with WMRI (until he left for WTOR in 2007 as news anchor and now at WFTW) and in 1983, Kurt Fonn was promoted to morning anchor (until he departed for Tampa's WWCF in 1990), and Bakula continued to anchored the weekend editions until 2003.
Bakula was also the original anchor of "Indiana Held Hostage", a series of special reports seen Saturday evenings on the ATE Media Network at 7:30 p.m. (6:30 Central) on the Indiana's response to the September 11, 2001 attacks that evolved into the statewide newscast Indiana Nightly News (now Indiana News Tonight) in March 2003 (the statewide newscast has since been moved to the weekday 4:30 p.m. Eastern time slot). Bakula, still a weekend evening news anchor, soon tired of the grind of the extended hours and was replaced by one of her revolving substitutes, Andrea Jameson, anchorwoman at WMRI's sister station in Chicago WAWZ (where she remains to this day).
During Bakula's tenure as weekend anchor, Melinda Long and Pete Ward often substituted while she was on vacation or on assignment; other substitute anchors included Ava Dowling and Robyn Hurd as well as now-former WMRI anchors Alexandra Moffitt (left WMRI in 1999 and now at WTOR/WXXC), Lauren Jefferson (left WMRI in 2004 for WTXI and now at WLIN), Jennifer Anderson (left WMRI for Minneapolis sister station WMNC in 1994 and now at KFMN), John Hill (left WMRI in 1982 for WNYF), Frank Zinn (now Ava Zinn), Holly Everman, and Garfield Everman.
By 1986, she was considered for the anchorwoman of WFAZ's then-new NewsCenter 9 at 5 newscast with Marshall Davidson that was ultimately filled by Lynne Jackson, who was hired from then-CBS affiliate WFTW (now an NBC affiliate) in 1988. Bakula remained on the field as weekend anchor and reporter. After Lauren Jefferson left WMRI in 2004, Bakula moved to the main anchor chair as the Fort Wayne, anchor for the now-revamped NewsCenter 9 First at Four and the statewide Indiana Nightly News newscast, with co-anchors Ted Shields in Indianapolis, Andrea Jameson in Chicago, and Melanie Wright in South Bend, the former of whom became the show's sole anchor after Bakula's death until retiring from WHOO in 2015.
O'Bannon death coverage episode, 2003
One famous moment in Bakula's career occurred on September 8, 2003 (the day NewsCenter 9 First at Four premiered), during live news coverage of the U.S. Midwest-Japan trade coverage sent via satellite from WFAZ Chicago sister station and then-PAX affiliate WAWZ (now an ABC O&O). Early reports received by Indianapolis sister station and then-CBS affiliate WHOO (now an ABC O&O) had indicated that Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon and others had a heart attack. She became upset when a report arrived indicating that O'Bannon had a massive stoke and at one point can be heard shouting at an individual off-screen to "speak up" as more information arrived.
Later, Indiana House of Representatives Speaker Patrick Bauer, a close friend of Bakula and WHOO anchorwoman Karly Ryder, erroneously reported by WHOO, WIFX, WIND, and WEVI as O'Bannon having a heart attack. Upon learning that the information regarding O'Bannon was incorrect, Bakula suddenly appeared noticeably upset and, looking around at staffers in the background, angrily burst out:
"Let's get it nailed down ... someone ... let's find out! Let's get it right so we can report this thing accurately!"
Both of Bakula's daughters are television correspondents: Kelli Bakula was previously the main anchor at South Bend's WTXI co-anchoring the 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts with Paul Ricken before moving to NBC 6 and Charlotte Bakula is currently a general assignment reporter at CBS 41 in two stints: from 2006 until 2010 before departing to anchor at WHAR in Madison, Wisconsin and again since 2016 nominally as a fill-in anchor on the weekend.
Bakula's last broadcast was June 14, 2006 and despite promises of her return by substitute anchorwomen, she never did, dying from ovarian cancer at Parkview Hospital on September 17, 2006, at the age of 55. She was diagnosed with the disease while she was being treated for abdominal pain. Bakula had underwent a reversal of her fallopian tubes being tied after the September 11 attacks and pap tests showed a golf ball-size tumor and she underwent surgery on May 8 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a month later.
- "Laura Bakula, 9abc newswoman, dies". Journal-Gazette. September 17, 2006.
- "Laura Bakula: 'caring reporter'". September 17, 2006. p. 9A.
- "WMRI-TV's Laura Bakula dies at 55". September 17, 2006. p. 25.
- Complete, Unexpurgated Transcript of the Scott Bakula Interview from the SCI FI Program Sciographpy: Quantum Leap. Quantum Leap official site (Sci Fi Channel) (August 13, 2000). Archived from the original on July 14, 2006.
- Scott Bakula wants you to know how to pronounce his name. Page Six. Retrieved on 17 December 2014.
- Ancestry of Scott Bakula (1954-). Retrieved on 17 December 2014.
- "First NewsCenter 9 Bulletin - Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon health scare - Laura Bakula". WFAZ. 8 September 2003.
- "WMRI feeling after effects of Laura Bakula's illness". August 7, 2006. p. 1D.